Symptoms Of Narcissism
- Sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with power, beauty, or success
- Can only be around people who are important or special
- Interpersonally exploitative for their own gain
- Lack empathy
- Must be admired
- Envious of others or believe that others are envious of them
Narcissists do not feel love. They, instead, are interested in what is called ‘narcissistic supply’, which is more or less the love that other people give them. To get this supply, they use various techniques, including love bombing, devaluation, gaslighting, withdrawing affection – anything to keep the target off balance and delivering what the narc needs. The bottom line is that the target is a victim of the narcissist and is manipulated for as long as they can be, until the narcissist feels it necessary to find a new source of supply. New supply is needed usually because the victim is wising up and demanding things in return. At this point, the narcissistic discard happens, which is heart-rending if you actually love a narc.
Types Of Narcissist
I’m going to shorthand narcissists into two categories – the overt and the covert. While there are more types of narcissist, I believe that the details probably aren’t too useful in a broad brush description of the illness. Feel free to read more on your own with the supplied links. The DSM-5 will probably be of assistance here also.
The overt narcissist is the person that you probably are thinking of when you think ‘narc’. This is the person that always has to be the center of attention, and that makes all the decisions and gets their way at all times. Overt narcs are extroverted, arrogant, noisy and want to be complimented at all times. Your needs will not be important – it is their needs that are vital. The overt narcissist is very charismatic and dominating. Overt narcs are openly abusive and usually don’t use more subtle tactics. They don’t usually have to.
The covert narcissist is a different animal. A covert narc is introverted rather than extroverted. They are more subtle in how they get the admiration and attention they crave. The covert narcissist actually wants the same things the overt type wants, they just achieve it in a less overtly dominating way. Manipulation is their strong suit.
Love Bombing / Idealization
The intense beginning of narcissistic relationships. The narcissist is at pains to treat you like you have never been treated before during this time frame. It’s all about making you feel that they are your soul mate. Utilizing the Mirroring technique to make themselves look like they are *just like you* (see below). You’ll get gifts and endless attention until they feel they have captured you fully. Then the devaluing will begin as depicted below. This is _really hard_ to resist.
Sometimes the covert narcissist will go back to love bombing you during the later Devaluing phase.
Mirroring is a technique used during the love bombing phase, where the narcissist mirrors the habits, lifestyle and very thoughts of the person who they are currently love bombing. This is how the narc is able to lock in a new relationship when they need one to get supply. In a lot of ways, the narcissist lacks their own identity, which is an interesting thought for someone who spends nearly all their time manipulating others.
Anecdotally, I watched Analie actually become dumber as she was no longer interested in impressing me. She had been faking it for years. She forgot about a lot of her musical tastes, picked up smoking which she had not done for 40 years, switched afterward to her new boyfriend’s brand, started drinking things she didn’t drink before, forgot she was into cats and began being into dogs. It was amazing to watch.
In any event, the mirroring during the love bombing creates an impression that you have found your soulmate. Unfortunately, this does not last.
The devaluing phase is between the love bombing and the discard. This is a key technique covert narcissists use to keep their marks hooked. They will subtly devalue you, making you question your abilities, your maturity, and your worth as a mate. This is a key part of the long term narcissistic abuse. Ironically, this draws you closer to the covert narcissist, as it is mixed with positive elements. It will keep you confused and coming back for more, hoping that if you do just a little more, it’ll all be good feedback, like it was during the love bombing. Sadly, this is not true.
Narcs are past masters of using the technique of gaslighting, convincing those around them that they are out of touch with reality. The abuse that the narc committed against you is made to disappear in their telling, and you are the one with the faulty memory or the one at fault that caused the abuse. At some point, you might doubt your own connection with reality, if this abuse is taken too much to heart.
Narcissistic discard is how relationships with narcissists end. They have either detected that you are about to leave them, or they aren’t getting sufficient supply and see someone new. The bottom line is that as soon as they have located a new source of supply, they move on to a new source. At this point you discover that narcissists are incapable of love. You will be very broken up by this, while they will appear unaffected. They have a new relationship – just as unhealthy as the one they had with you, but it will look perfect from the outside.
While the narc acting like they are unaffected is kind of true, another way to look at it is that the narcisisst is always unhappy with themselves. Deep down they have no self-esteem. All of their show of being better than others is an act. Therefore, they are empty at all times – it just is way more obvious at the moment of discard.
The discard is just as awful as the initial love bombing was good. Perhaps worse. A person with normal emotions will never dispose of someone so easily, but the narc can, and does.
Why are Narcissists This Way?
The narc has horrendous self-esteem deep down inside, whether covert or overt. They think nearly nothing of themselves. The web of lies and deceit they construct is to prevent others from finding out how truly empty they feel inside. The constant manipulation of narcissistic supply is a vain effort to fill the huge hole inside of them. Some narcs become addicts to try to fill the hole also – drugs, alcohol. It is all unsuccessful.
As for why this happens, there is no one theory of narcissism. Some think it is due to lack of attention as a child, some think it is due to too much attention, and some think it is the wrong kind of attention, e.g. a narc parent makes narc children. I am undecided personally, there is no one classic way to make a narc. Maybe it is genetic?
Narcissism is generally believed to be somewhat impervious to treatment. Narcs do not want to be treated, first of all, and even when they submit to treatment, the various modalities such as drug therapy, cognitive therapy, etc. produce little result. Some of the most self-aware narcissists realize what they are, but are unable to control it. It is truly a horrible diagnosis for the narc, and a horrible future for the those that love the narcissist.
If you can arrange it, I recommend going ‘no contact’ with the narc(s) in your life. They will hurt you and manipulate you constantly unless you do this. Failure to do so will subject you to the discard ultimately, unless you choose to spend your entire life enabling them. And in that case, who are you living for? Certainly not yourself. Just go no contact – no talking, no seeing them, no phone calls, no texts, no nothing. You’ll thank me later.
I have personally gone no contact with Analie, Cathy and one or two others who are actively abusive. People who do harm to you have no right to be a part of your life.